Measuring learning

Today, my PLN is abuzz with John Oliver’s segment about standardized testing.

While I (thankfully) do not have to deliver standardized test for my students, this video is timely. This week marks the completion of the PYP Exhibition for the grade 5 students at my school. Rather than showing their understanding in a test, they are showing their learning in a self-directed, inquiry-based project. It is a culmination of their six years in the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program. While both the Exhibition and standardized tests are means through which students show their learning, the two couldn’t be more different.

  • While standardized tests are the same for all children, the Exhibition is totally personalized and allows teachers and students to tailor the project to meet a variety of needs.
  • Rather than being limited to multiple-choice responses, the Exhibition allows students to choose how they show their learning. That means that they are showing what they have learned about their topic and what they know about themselves as learners.
  • Instead of being assessed by people (or machines) who are totally removed from the students’ context, students are involved in assessing their work on the Exhibition.
  • While standardized tests measure numeracy, literacy and general knowledge, the Exhibition allows students to apply those skills in conjunction with research, critical thinking and presentation skills.

Measuring student learning is important for students, teachers, parents, school boards, communities… but standardized testing is not the only way. If learning is to be student-centred, than assessment of learning must be student-centred too.


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